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TwinWest Chamber of Commerce event connects leaders on talent & workforce issues

Minnesota’s workforce reality requires increased talent recruitment and retention to tackle a worker shortage expected to explode the number of unfilled technical positions from the current 60,000 to 239,000 by the end of 2022.

Nearly 300 business leaders, educators, and community members gathered to share strategies and initiatives to meet the state’s short and long-term talent needs at the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce’s Talent Symposium on September 19.

Presenters from different industries and sectors provided labor market analysis and proposed solutions to attract, develop, and retain a skilled and thriving workforce.

Scott Peterson with RealTime Talent set the stage on the current and forecasted talent shortages and what key levers are necessary to close the worker and skills gap. “There are three main Minnesota worker shortage initiatives: increase employment, increase migration, and increase productivity,” Peterson said.

Increasing employment involves eliminating disparities in employment (around 98,000 workers are underemployed), reducing dislocated workers, reducing the long-term unemployed, and maintaining current rates of youth employment. There is also a need to increase domestic migration. To increase productivity, employers should focus on leveraging automation, upskilling workers in occupations likely to automate, and organizing employers by key sectors more effectively.

The next presenter, TwinWest’s Shannon Full, shared a model for developing and retaining a K-12 pipeline. The chamber’s newest initiative, Opportunity Connect, is a technology platform that connects employers, educators, and students through career exploration, skills-based engagement, and learning experiences.

Five school districts serving 53,000 K-12 students are partnering with TwinWest to provide students with real career-based engagement outside of the classroom and teachers with externship opportunities.

Hennepin County’s student internships and Pathways to Hire initiatives have helped participants secure higher annual wages and rely less on public assistance, according to Commissioner Jan Callison.

Additionally, the county’s Greater Metropolitan Workforce Council uses cross-sector membership of 25 community and workforce leaders to propose public workforce strategies across six top regional job sectors (government, IT, finance, construction, manufacturing, and healthcare).

The healthcare industry facing the greatest projected shortage in the metro area by 2021 is registered nurses. Megan Remark, CEO of Regions Hospital, highlighted the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership—a partnership between health care providers, higher education institutions, and banks—as a regional approach to developing a workforce more representative of local communities along the Central Corridor. “There are many Central Corridor jobs each projected to have many openings that only require two years of education or less and pay average hourly wages between $17 to $31 an hour,” Remark said.

To reach and develop this potential workforce, Regions partners with a “Scrubs Camp” for high school students interested in healthcare careers. College students can participate in the Central Corridor College Fellows program and are connected to part-time healthcare jobs. There are also nursing apprenticeships available through the Nursing Diversity Initiative.

Talent development and retention were discussed by Make It. MSP’s Tiffany Orth and Drinal Foster from Wells Fargo, with a particular focus on retaining professionals of color and advancing them in the workplace. “Partnership in Action,” an internship program through Wells Fargo, has worked with 1,100 interns to give them “experiential opportunities” that better prepare them for different workplace environments.

In November, the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) will be launching CareerForce, an online platform with almost 50 workforce locations designed to help more individuals find careers and help more employers find talent. CareerForce’s goal is to be the go-to resource for career seekers and employers in Minnesota.

And lastly, Tawanna Black with Center for Economic Inclusion focused on civic infrastructure and collective capacity. Black said “an inclusive economy, one that eliminates racial disparities,” could address the region’s talent shortage. The Center for Economic Inclusion is working to ensure all residents can access human capital (such as talent development and fair wages and employment), economic development (through entrepreneurship and business growth), and transportation and housing.

View the PowerPoint presentations here and here.

Because a governor’s support is essential to overcoming a worker shortage and skills gap, a debate between Jeff Johnson and Tim Walz at the end of the event gave both gubernatorial candidates an opportunity to discuss their plans for talent workforce development. My colleague Mitch Pearlstein gave a quick sampling of the debate here, and you can hear the debate in its entirety here.

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